​Google tests password generator in Chrome browser

Watch out, LastPass and 1Password. Google is experimenting with its own password maker for the Chrome browser, though it's not clear if it will become a permanent fixture.

Seth Rosenblatt Former Senior Writer / News
Senior writer Seth Rosenblatt covered Google and security for CNET News, with occasional forays into tech and pop culture. Formerly a CNET Reviews senior editor for software, he has written about nearly every category of software and app available.
Seth Rosenblatt
2 min read

Chrome's experimental and crash-prone Canary build gets a password-generator refresh. Could it make its way to the stable version of the browser? Google

As the entire Internet struggles to build a better password, Google has built a password generator of its own into an experimental version of the Chrome browser.

The feature has been an option in Chrome since 2012, but on Thursday Google gave it some long-overdue attention with a new interface in Chrome Canary, the roughest version of the browser. Though that's no guarantee the feature will find its way into the stable incarnation of Chrome, the new interface indicates that Google might be preparing it for more-popular versions. NetMarketShare reports that Chrome is the second-most-used browser globally, with 19.61 percent of the market.

Chrome watcher and Google employee François Beaufort said on Google+ that the tool uses a C library with the FIPS 181 Automated Password Generator, and it spits out a "strong" and pronounceable password.

To activate it, you must be running Chrome Canary, and then enable two flags: chrome://flags/#enable-password-generation and chrome://flags/#enable-save-password-bubble. Once you've done that, Chrome will open an overlay and suggest passwords to you when you click on any field that requires a new password. While Chrome Canary won't override your existing Google Chrome, Google does warn that the browser is experimental and sometimes can stop working.

Password-generating tools like LastPass, 1Password, RoboForm and others are a mainstay of browser accessories, and are often recommended by security experts because they can help create and manage "strong" passwords. "Strong" refers to passwords that are difficult for hackers and computers to guess. Google's effort, if it makes it into the regular version of Chrome, could encourage other browser makers to build password generators and make the field more competitive.

Hackers stole celebrity photos from Apple's iCloud online storage service in part by guessing passwords to accounts. Stronger passwords might have protected the celebrities from the hack.

Update, 6:30 p.m. PT: Adds context.